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What is a work advocate and how do you find one?

Finding someone who will stick up for you and support you can make a positive difference if you feel stressed or overwhelmed about your situation at work. Regardless of your work industry or position, an advocate can become your support source in the workplace. Understanding what it means to have a work advocate, as well as how to find someone to advocate for you in your place of work, can improve your morale. Explore the concept of a work advocate and how to find one.

What is a work advocate?

A work advocate is someone in your workplace willing to champion your cause, strive to improve how others perceive you, and campaign on your behalf. Your advocate could be a co-worker. This individual may be on the same professional level as you or below you and working up the career ladder. An advocate may also be a supervisor or manager who understands you and what you contribute to the team.

Work advocate versus mentor

Are you looking for an advocate at work? You might mix up this idea with a workplace mentor. Although both are important for workers at all professional levels, the roles of advocate and mentor differ.

  • A mentor can help you consider your career path and make decisions that might affect your progression.
  • A mentor might rank above you in a career, giving insights into what you may face as you move forward and get promoted.

Compare this role with that of an advocate.

  • An advocate in the workplace is someone who strives to create opportunities for you.
  • An advocate might talk to your manager about contributions you made to a project and share how your professional development prepared you to assume a new role.
  • An advocate may speak to your team members about your workload and request additional support on your behalf. This professional's role is to raise awareness about what you bring to the table.

Work advocate versus ally

You might also have allies in your workplace who support you and are there for you when the need arises.

  • An ally is an individual or group that provides support or assistance to another.
  • In a cultural setting, an ally might offer support to a group of people experiencing mistreatment or marginalization. However, the ally doesn't belong to the group the individual supports.

Compare this role with that of an advocate.

  • An advocate is someone who promotes or supports the interests of another.
  • In the workplace, an advocate often looks for opportunities to help another person advance or have a better reputation.

How to find your work advocate

When you're feeling oppressed or frustrated at work, looking elsewhere for a new opportunity might be tempting. But it might be worth considering seeking an advocate instead of throwing in the towel on your current role. Follow these steps to find someone to advocate for you in the workplace.

Research those around you

The first step in finding a work advocate is determining which co-worker might be a good fit for the role. Perform some research through professional social networking sites to learn more about others' experiences and opportunities. Choose a few people who might be worth getting to know and ask them to meet for a quick cup of coffee. You can use this one-on-one time to discuss your interests and identify areas in which you connect.

Build a network

Networking is an essential aspect of your professional life, regardless of the industry in which you work. Building a solid network within your organization can also help you identify and get to know people who might advocate for you. Having one or two friends in the workplace can serve as the foundation for a strong network. Strive to learn more about people outside your department as you network with others.

Make yourself more visible

When you're flying under the radar, it's hard for people to get to know you and identify your strengths. As a result, people who aren't very visible in the workplace tend to struggle to find advocates who will speak up on their behalf. If you're in the habit of laying low and avoiding the spotlight, now is the time to make yourself more visible in the workplace. Talk about your achievements professionally and support others when they talk to you about their accomplishments.

Chat with your co-workers

Small talk can help you establish relationships, even if they start on a surface level. You can connect with people by discussing your interests and learning whether they might share any with you. Some topics to consider chatting about in the workplace include music, weekend plans, a local restaurant you visited recently, or even the weather. Starting a conversation with a low-key and noncontroversial topic can help you break the ice and begin a relationship with someone at work.

Be an advocate for others

Finding people who will advocate on your behalf involves being someone who will advocate for others. You need to be a team player and support your team members and colleagues with whom you interact regularly. When discussing your achievements to make yourself more visible, ask what they have done recently and talk about their accomplishments with others. Although your co-workers might advocate for you, especially if they know you're advocating for them, you shouldn't expect anything in return.

Advocating for yourself at work

Although it's important to feel like you have someone you can count on and trust at work, it's also helpful to understand how to advocate for yourself. Self-advocacy can demonstrate confidence in your knowledge and abilities. Practicing the ability to advocate for yourself can also help you progress in your career. When you advocate for yourself and your needs, you can communicate what you want and how you contribute to the team. This step can support your overall well-being and allow you to create a progression plan.

When considering how you can better speak up on your behalf, think about how you can speak professionally. Difficult conversations, especially around your achievements and efforts, can cause emotions to run high. Try to maintain control over your feelings while calmly demonstrating examples of why you deserve to progress in your career or take on new projects. When others are busy at work, they're less likely to notice what you contribute, so you have to celebrate your successes and make your work ethic more apparent.

What can self-advocacy do for you?

You can advocate for yourself in collaboration with a trusted advocate in the workplace. But in some cases, you might need an advocate with a unique perspective to serve as your champion and source of support. Knowing how to stand up for yourself while supporting others and accepting what your co-workers have to offer can help you succeed at work. If you're struggling to get results from self-advocacy, you may want to consider moving on. Use CareerBuilder to get email alerts about jobs that align with your professional goals.

By trying to network and getting to know the other members of your organization, you can increase your chances of finding a work advocate. As you continue to build relationships and offer support to others, you may find that new opportunities open up to you through the advocacy of your colleagues. As a result, you could be in the position to serve as a work advocate for someone who shows promise in your profession or job industry.

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